Source Documents
mctavish, shaw & berry  : mals, mats & kneelos, 1977. 

McTavish, Dave Shaw and Peter Berry : Modern Mal, Surfmats, and Knee-boards, 1977.
Bob McTavish : Modern Malibu
Dave Shaw : Surf Mats
Peter Berry : Knee-boards
Surf Australia
Volume 1 Number 6, November 1977.

Three articles extolling the virtues of three varieties of surf-craft, typical the late 1970s.

The first, largely by Bob McTavish with some quotes from California's Surfer magazine.
An slightly expanded (complete?) version of the article appeared concurrently in the November edition of Surfer.
See Bob McTavish : It's much more fun than it looks...and it looks like fun.
The title of the Surf Australia article, Breaking Back Into The Straight Line, inverts McTavish's mantra of the late 1960s- to break from the straight line. 
Bob McTavish : Ladies and gentlemen and children of the sun
Unfortunately, the claim that longer boards are faster than short boards by all time master surfer, Phil Edwards, is demonstratively incorrect.

Surf-mats were big in the late 1970s, a alternative for small or less than ideal conditions and a safe and easy craft for juveniles, by 1980 their role was essentially supplanted by Tom Morey's Boogie Board.
Dave Shaw's article on surf-mats is informative on technique, but for a more technical appraisal see George Greenough's Everything You Wanted to know about Surf Mats published in Tracks earlier that year.

Peter Berry achieved brief fame in Australia for his extreme and eccentric knee-board designs in the late 1970s, this just one of several profile-design articles of the period.

In extensive correspondence about a 1978 Kerrawa Jet Bottom surfboard, shaped by Erle Pedersen, in March 2006, Simon Chipper (kindly) commented:
Peter Berry, a kneeboarder, also an amazing left-field shaper, his Cave Creature Designs feature flexible tails and rails; also handles and step decks.

For surf-mats and knee-boards, see: Prone and Knee Boards.

Page 30
Breaking Back Into The Straight Line
Random thoughts by Bob McTavish and others
Photos by Peter Green
When we put the small board together we had a principle in mind - to combine the speed area in the turning area.
This meant you could keep the power through your turn, resulting in today's arcing power surfing.
This is just fine when there is enough room to carve - size wise head high or over, surface smooth.
But what about the all-too-common small days, sloppy days, just plain junk days.
And those perfect peeling point mini-days.
Re-enter the big board.
With its many square feel of soft planing area it glides over dead spots, connects the power pockets and develops phenomenal speed from small weak waves.
That's the starting point.
McTavish nose trimming onto the green.

"No matter what people say about the short board being faster, I'll never believe it because with the longer board you just end up further down the beach."
- Phil Edwards, all time master surfer.

The other day at the point I dropped in on a guy on a small board.
I didn't think he had a chance.
The wave was about six feet.
I trimmed my big board for all it was worth, then added a stretch five.
It really threw over and I was right in there for a couple of seconds.
Then the guy on the small board appeared below me.
We both got bombed.
I felt lousy.
He came up hooting!
Is the big board faster?

It's a case of float or fly.
When you need to float, the big board is faster, when there is the power to fly, the small board is faster.


Little Mac and his big fun boards.
"Lance Carson is back" — a message scrawled on a Santa Monica building.
Who? You ask.
Lance was king of Malibu in the early sixties.
What's Malibu?
Ultimate delight in trim surf.
Says Lance of small boards - "I never got on one never will."

Page 31

Surfer Magazine - "Wide boards (21" and over) give more glide and stability
Compare them to birds that soar, eg pelicans and eagles.
The pelican can coast on the slightest updraught from the smallest wave, while the seagulls who have narrow wings, can't glide until the surf is larger.

It's the same for wide vs. narrow boards.
Average surf ridden calls for wider boards." - Skip Frye
Fair enough?


Midget called it high speed stall and low speed stall after hang-gliding awhile —
Hang gliding      hanging on the nose and gliding under section alter section.
A nice way to spend a windy afternoon -

McTavish contolling the situation from the tip.
Which brings us to the trimmings.
Apart from getting you going better in weak waves you've got the arts of trimming and nose riding.
True trimming is almost a lost art - or was till the recent upsurge in big board use.
Trimming is getting the maximum efficiency from a situation; balancing the available variables to make the section you're in and the one after it and hopefully after that.
It's a very satisfying feeling to get the most from it in a delicate and graceful way.

And we all know what nose-riding is - but have you experienced the in-the-tube high-speed noseride only available on the big board?
It's not the mushy painful thing the short board delivers.
Or the nose trim.
Going for maximum speed with your whole board hanging behind you in the tube, laying as much planing area as possible on the face - very thrilling, and in surf that most people drive right by ...    just a couple of feet high and maybe quite sloppy.


"I built a big board as a back up for small surf, haven't ridden my small boards for three months" a satisfied convert.

Little Mac and a big fun board.

Page 36
Mat Mechanics
A Comprehensive Composition by Canvas Commando Dave Shaw.

Let's face it, mat riding will never reach the mass appeal equal to that of surfboard riding.
The machinery is just not sleek enough, nor is it the totally responsive go-anywhere-on-a-wave vehicle, but more "blob-like".
However, fun is fun and riding rubber ducks is certainly that.
While fun is important, a positive attitude towards manoeuvres will make rhe excursion into mat riding a very satisfying pastime, certainly equal to other forms of self-expression.

Mat riding does take a certain amount of dull and not everyone can get the hang of it.
Some of my friends who are quite good surfboard riders have claimed that they have found if difficult and not easy to pick up.

Dave Shaw testing theories for this story. Photo: Core.
Catching waves is certainly an elementary point, but regardless of how basic it might be, I feel a speedy entry into a wave is of paramount importance.
It's frustratingly annoying to be hung up in the lip of ledgy, hollow waves and get pitched out sideways with the lip.
I have found the most effective way to counteract this is to move into a swell by setting up a paddling rhythm, with the accent on speed rather than power.
Combine this with an angled take­off and you'll be into all types of waves nice and early with plenty of time to read exactly what the wave is going to do next.

Of course these take-off techniques apply generally to hollow waves, better and peakier
waves are slightly different and require an adjusted approach.
But I'd like again to emphasise that take-offs are the single most important factor in making waves, so refine your rake-offs to the point where you can confidently paddle into any situation knowing you handle it.

I ride Hodgman mats made by the Converse Rubber Company the U.S., and I find them a fairly responsive vehicle.
Their main fault is that they wear thin after a couple of years' use.
However they are rigid and have a chassis of five ribs, plus they have a superior valve set-up.
Being of rigid design, these mats perform well at such places as Burleigh, Lennox or Winki Pop.
All places where speed is essential to

Page 37

make their long walls.

Once onto a wave, your basic range of manoeuvres are much the same the as those of boardriders.
A smooth, but firm bottom turn can set you up for the oncoming section, again the familiarity with your equipment will let you know exactly how far you can push it.
Bottom turns can be a heavy bank off the base with the inside leg and flipper acting as an extra long rail.
Remember that without a fin sliding out at this critical point will usually mean you get munched.
Drawing a smooth line on the bottom will not result in spinning out.
Practice makes perfect - well almost.

Bouncing off ihe lip is a comparatively easy move to do on a mat, because your centre of gravity is so low and there is no balance to be maintained like when you come
off the top on a surfboard.
The lip bounce is pretty much the same deal that Peter Crawford performs on his kneeboard, only it's not as speedy on a mat.

As you come off the bottom, try to time your arrival at the top of the wave at the same time ih,il the lip begins to throw and aim at it with the object to come back over with it.
You should rise above the lip just as it begins to throw and then pivot your mat and body in the air to come riding down on the downflow of whitewater.
You will have enough speed to bank off the base and turn yourself clear of all the whitewater.

Tube riding is one of the most difficult things to do on a mat.
Getting into the tube is usually no problem, it's getting back out, that's the hassle.
Again I guess that
it's due to the fact that we are riding non-functional fun equipment and that puts you basically at the mercy ol the wave itself as far as making barrels is concerned.

Photo: Shaw.

Photo: Core.

I feel the best approach towards top to bottom tubes is to take the lowest line of attack (in the base), as this counters the upward draw of the wave.
The rule is fairly simple in theory: the hollower the wave, the lower the line should be taken.
If the wave is a pocket type tube in the top half of a wave, then a higher driving line is the answer.
A parallel line into a tube will only result in you being drawn up the face until you begin to side-slip out of control, then getting splattered by the lip.
Watch Shaun Tomson's approach to tube riding and you'll

Page 42

Who is this man & why are
his kneeboards so radical?
Page 43
Design : Peter Berry
Story and photos by Chris Elfes

A young South Australian kneeboarder by the name of Paul Mlinards is quickly opening a package at an
Adelaide Airport freight terminal.
After tearing the package apart and revealing me contents, Paul suddenly goes off the deep end and starts
ranting and raving, much to the bewilderment of some startled airline employees, who are staring in almost
disbelief at the young surfer.
What they didn't know was that Paul's package contained a new kneeboard, built for hlm by Peter Berry and
you see, well, Peter Berry just happens to design and build the most radical and imaginative kneeboards yet conceived.

Peter Berry comes from the Maroubra area on Sydney's southern beaches and builds his far out kneeboards
under the label of Nomad.
If you take a good long look at these photos of his equipment, you'll probably understand why Paul Minards
was so surprised when he
opened his package and found one of these radical irnie machines inside.
Because of their unconventional appearance, they never fail to cause raised eyebrows and confusion at the beach.

In order to appreciate Peter's thoughts on his unusual approach to kneeboard building, it's best to let him do the talking.

"My boards were pretty standard up until 1967, it was then when t first saw a photo of this radical looking experimental board, built by Gordon Woods surfboards at Brookvale. It had a long flexible tail, a raised deck and a scooped out nose section similar to a Greenough Spoon.
I've always been intrigued by flex in surfboard design, so I needed to experiment and build a board for myself.
The first one I built had a twelve inch flex-tail and it could bend up to nine inches.
I was more than happy with my experiment
... (Incomplete)

Unique double rail,
eliminates handles.

The man and his machine.

Neil Cameron, attempting a 360.
Page 44?

No. 1
Dimensions: 5'7" x 26 1/2''
Built: September

Design: Step bottom, full pintail with double rails.
The rails are flexible for three-quarters the length of the board.
Comment: Works well in long walled waves sized three to eight foot.
It can ride a long way out from the curl and can do full rail cutbacks without the fin in the water.

No. 3
Dimensions: 5'8" x 25"
Built: August 1976.   
Design: Pin nose and tail with slight vee under nose and tail.
Comment: A very loose board has the ability to hold in well in steep and critical sections.
Will handle anything from three to 10 feet.

No. 4
Dimensions: 6'3" x 21"
Built: December 1970
Design: Pintail with slight vee in the tail.
The first board I ever constructed with
Comment: A very versatile board that works well in all sorts of waves. It has been ridden successfully in everything from three to 15 feet.

No. 5

Dimensions: 7'2" x 21 1/2''
Built: July 1973

Design: Has a step in the rail line, similar to a Stinger.
It has a vee in the nose and tail.
The bottom has two heavy concaves that form an air cushion.
It has a two foot long Keel fin.
Comment: It's a hard board to turn, but once it gets going it makes light work of heavy waves.
No. 2
Dimensions: 5'9" x 21 1/4"
Built: August 1974
Design: Heavy double concave with kicked down narrow pintail.
Comment: Works well in very fast waves.
At high speeds it becomes highly manoeuvrable.
Sits high in the lip.

No. 6

Dimensions: 6 0 x 20 1/2''
Built: (Not supplied)
Design: Round tail with vee running the entire length of the board.
It has double rails instead of conventional handles.
Comment: Works best at high speed, not a slop riding board.

Other Items of Interest

Merrin Surfmats

Peter Townend : G&S Surfboards

Saltwater Legropes

Terry Richardson: G&S Surfboards


Surf Australia
Volume 1 Number 6
November 1977.

Greg Mellish,


Geoff Cater (2020) : McTavish, Shaw & Berry : Surfcraft, 1977.